Mom’s wish was too hard for me to fulfill on my first Mother’s Day without her.  On her special day she wanted another mom to get the gift she loved. Here’s why it took me time to honor her, her way.

January 2014 mom was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. But mom was tough, at 16 months old she contracted polio and the doctors told her parents that she would never walk. But she didn’t know that she wasn’t supposed to be able to walk … so she played baseball, drove a standard shift car, and she danced.

By May of 2014, mom had completed what would be her first round of chemo … it left her weak and but a fraction of what she weighed before, but mom was tough. She was determined to go out for our traditional Mother’s Day brunch. Underlying its importance this year was the pressure that this one would be our last.

I brought her a bouquet of all her favorites – babies breath and greenery were scattered between lilies and tulips – and this year there was also a single red rose. The day was almost more somber than it was joyous as we set out to the restaurant for brunch. The booth behind ours was occupied by an older woman with an enormous hat and it sparked a memory mom had about hats and her “generation.” It was as if the mood lifted by seeing that hat, and we were once again just a mom, dad and daughter celebrating at Mother’s Day brunch.

Shortly afterward, the hostess approached the woman with the hat to let her know that her granddaughter had called to say that she couldn’t make it –  that something had come up.  It only took mom a moment to scoot herself up from our booth and invite the lady to sit with us, the look in her eyes told me that this decision was not up for review.

While it took me a minute to get over my own selfishness at wanting this day to be about our family, mom was already making room for the hat lady next to her. We had a wonderful time at brunch that year, it was filled with laughter and memories, and it was shared with a mom who needed it. Mom was so generous of spirit.

Later in the afternoon, mom pulled me aside to ask a favor of me. She started by saying how much she loved the lilies and tulips in the bouquets she received over the years, then she asked me not to lay a bouquet of flowers at her grave next Mother’s Day … but to gift them to a mother who reminded me of her. In that way, she explained, another mother could be honored on their special day.

Mom didn’t make it to the next Mother’s Day and the bouquet of lilies and tulips sat at her grave, because in my grief I could not see in another woman the spirit of my mom. Not because there weren’t amazing women in my life, but I couldn’t see it because I wasn’t looking.

In the years that followed, however, I have been able to abide by mom’s wishes and gift her bouquet to another mother. Now I’m looking for the goodness and willing to share my mom with others. In giving to someone else, it has opened a more gracious heart in me … well played, mom. Happy Mother’s Day.


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Elizabeth Viszt
Elizabeth is a certified Educational Specialist and Success Coach. She has a BA, MS in biology with a concentration in ethology (animal behavior), is an EAGALA Equine Specialist in equine assisted learning and personal development, and has extensive personal leadership skills. She spent much of her career in education at the high school, college and correctional facility levels teaching biology & chemistry and acting in the capacity of a success coach. Elizabeth presents workshops and seminars which address communication issues as they manifest in personal relationships. She uses writing as both a creative and cathartic outlet, especially after losing both of her parents to cancer in 2015. She lives in upstate NY, on a farm that bears the name of her motto: Be Unreasonable! She's invested in empowering others in moving their pieces forward in the world.

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